Thoughts on a Missed Due Date

fly

I typically don’t waste a lot of time thinking about what might have been.  The past is in the past and I tend to believe that the things that have happened, both good and bad, have taught me a lot about myself, about life, and about how things should be.  I take what I need from those lessons and I don’t dwell a lot on the coulda, shoulda, woulda.

But, when you lose a pregnancy, you can’t help but think about the should-have-beens.

I should be feeling my baby move all over the place.

I should have been preparing the nursery by now.

My belly should be watermelon-sized and I should have a hospital bag packed.

I should have planted more in our garden this year, but since I was anticipating being pregnant this summer, I didn’t.

I shouldn’t be dreading August 20…but I am.

That’s the day (give or take a few) that we would have welcomed our little boy into the world.  Evelyn would have become a big sister. Instead, he was born 24 weeks early.  The baby things have been sold, the nursery is a storage room for the time being, and I’m still hanging on to the weight that I gained in the first trimester….a constant reminder, like my body won’t let go of what it already lost.

How does anybody cope with a due date after a pregnancy loss?  I don’t know.  I’m not even sure how to write this.  I am still getting through it.  In a way, I will be glad when it passes.  It feels a bit like the last mountain to climb before I can work my way back to normalcy.  It also feels like losing him all over again. So far, it’s just been best for me to let the feelings come, experience them, acknowledge them, honor them.  They are what I have of my son….the should-have-beens.

I am grateful that Michael’s vacation time will coincide with the date and several weeks ago, I suggested we take a long trip.  Yep, I’m running away from it….away from all the things that remind me of what should have been.  I guess I didn’t have my head on straight when we planned the return trip because on August 20, the day I should have been holding my son, I will be sitting in a car for 12 hours, with nothing but time to think about it.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I don’t know.  I guess we all just muddle through this life and try to figure it out as we go.  At least that’s the way I do it.

I’m hoping not to live in the should-have-been for too much longer.  “Should have been” suggests that the world owes us something.  It does not.  We are not owed or guaranteed a single thing.  I think about this when I try to figure out how we might honor our son each year.  I don’t know how we will do it, but I do know when I’d like to do it and it won’t be on August 20.  In the time that it’s taken me to write this, I have realized that I do have more of my son than the should-have-beens.  I have what actually was.  I still gave birth to him.  I still got to hold him.  Not many women who have miscarried get to say that.  Sure, there have been times when the memory of those moments with him made this loss much more painful than my previous miscarriages. But, I’d much rather honor him on the day he was born rather than the day he should have been.

That seems like a huge step, right?  Accepting what was instead of wishing for what should have been?  I’ll keep working on it.  One day at a time.

 

Our Life Since Then (Surviving a Miscarriage)

surviving

It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”

The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling.  We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled.  After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here.  That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation.  I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss.  There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.

One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me.  When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle.  I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along.  It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling.  We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery.  We had always anticipated that there would be one more.  But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family.  We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me.  I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual.  April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather.  I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped.  For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.  I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.

Keeping the faith has been a priority for me.  I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true.  It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good.  But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time.  Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him.  I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital.  I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss.  I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain.  I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.

There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby.  He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means.  We got to see him and hold him.  We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born.  We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items.  We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.

flying home

I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost.  Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up.  I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.

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Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.

I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment.  So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time.  Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time.  As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels.  If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.

Our Second Trimester Loss

***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful.  Please feel free to skip this post.  My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward.  I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone.  It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress.  Much love, Carrie***

Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here.  I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.

My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks.  Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities.  So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound.  Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community).  This was the week before Valentine’s Day.

In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office.  They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY!  I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated.  I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news.  We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother.  Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before.  So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be.  She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie.  So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.

By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick.  But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug.  Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again.  I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore.  At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating.  I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant.  I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use.  I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time.  But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all.  I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it.  I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him.  I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance.  So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.

First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife.  I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either.   At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound.  She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly.  Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired.  But I knew right away that something wasn’t right.  When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat.  This time, he didn’t say anything.  I knew.  I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head.  She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.”  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it.  I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news.  I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.

Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps.  I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby.  There really didn’t seem like another choice.  The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous.  He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.

We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall.  We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down.  I was scared.  I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever.  But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me.  I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning.  I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar.  I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head.  But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.

At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby.  My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested.  But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned.  A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.

During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong.  But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.

The waiting seemed endless.  My body just would not cooperate.  Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.

As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out.  I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see.  I felt stuck, trapped.  At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication.  The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice.   If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby.  I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go.  I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.

I agreed to try a different method to induce labor.  The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and  I settled in for my second night.  For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain.  I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication.  Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.”  Finally, some movement, but no baby yet.  I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am.  I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go.  Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.

I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse.  I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there.  I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room.  As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord.  It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death.  While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby.  Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine.  It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this.  At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy.  He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.

The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head.  Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son.  We looked at him for a long time and cried.  We didn’t really exchange any words.  There was nothing to say.  Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead.  It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures.  I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now.  This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.

 

Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body.  I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital.  We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge.  It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son.  Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us.  I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.

I have no idea where we go from here.  It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time.  I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage.  I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week.  As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this.  I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all.  But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.

 

Saying Goodbye Too Soon

loss

Most of the people in my life didn’t even know I was pregnant.  Even those closest to me had only just learned the news when our baby left us.

Over the past year, I had seen so many friends miscarry that I thought somehow that I could be “safe” if I just waited to tell everyone.  But, safe from what?  Safe from the loss?  Safe from having to deliver bad news?  Nobody wants to have to say those words, but healing doesn’t happen in secret.  It doesn’t happen in darkness.

We had just begun to tell our closest family the news when the bleeding started.  I spent the second half of that day with my family in a complete fog…that day that was supposed to be so happy…that day we had decided weeks before that we would share the great news of a new baby on the way.  I dragged myself home to lie down, but sleep didn’t come.  I tossed and turned and in between tears and fervent prayers, I squinted at the blue light of my phone, looking for hope and answers on the internet.  I found myself straddling a fine line between hope and surrender, not wanting to allow either one to completely overtake me.  Michael was at work and I was home alone and mainly I was scared that I would lose our baby all alone in the dark.

I spent another half a day in a fog of sadness, trying desperately to keep my daughter from seeing my tears and from feeling my despair.  When the baby finally left me, it came as a relief.  Though not the resolution I wanted, it was at least a release from the unknown and the fear.

I was ten weeks pregnant and had six glorious weeks of planning and dreaming about who this new little person might be.  I swooned at the idea of Evelyn becoming a big sister and couldn’t wait for her to be able to feel little baby kicks in my tummy.  It’s amazing how quickly a mama (and daddy) brain can wrap itself around the idea of new baby.  The connection is almost instantaneous.  The love hits you like ton of bricks.

I wasn’t prepared for this.  I was so certain about this baby right from the start.  I knew I was pregnant long before the test told me so.

In the days leading up to my miscarriage, we had just started to tell Evelyn about the baby in mommy’s belly and she was certain that it was a boy baby.  I like to think that maybe she knew something that the rest of us couldn’t have known.  She proudly sported her ‘Big Sister’ T-shirt and announced the news to my parents.  It feels so unfair that she won’t ever get to play with him and boss him around.

We had started to plan for the nursery and I bought a few teeny tiny cloth diapers from a friend.  We even had the names all ready to go.  This baby was real to us, even though we hadn’t yet seen him on a screen or heard a little heartbeat.

My thoughts and words here are starting to ramble as I try to make sense of something that can’t be explained away.  I know I am only at the beginning of the grieving process, and I can’t fully articulate everything that I am thinking and feeling.  But, I feel like talking about this loss is a way of remembering my baby.  As Michael and I stopped for food after our long ER visit, I noticed the the other diners happily chatting away, waitresses cleaning tables and everyone just going about their business as the reality of our loss weighed heavily on our weary hearts.  It was a great reminder to me that you really never know what other people are going through, what tragedy may have just fallen upon them.

While I have no regrets about waiting to tell people about my pregnancy, it scares me to think that I could just go about my business and most people would never even know what happened.  They wouldn’t ever know that my baby existed.  But, he did exist and he was loved and cherished and dreamed about and prayed for.  For a time, however brief, he was ours.